Soon in the history books: India is staring at an acute freshwater crisis, yet there was no mention of drought in the union budget | Image: IndianExpress

Economic survey warns of water insecurity, but Union budget skips mention of drought, allocates little for agriculture

Taking a serious view of prevailing water scarcity and widespread droughts in the country, India’s Economic Survey 2018-19, released on the eve of the Union Budget 2019, stressed on the need to improve “irrigation water productivity”. However, neither did finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s mention drought in her budget speech, nor do budget outlays reflect much cognisance of the situation. While the budget prioritises piped drinking water to all by 2024, outlays for irrigation remains a minuscule Rs 7,615.56 cr, which is a composite Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna (PMKSY) irrigation budget, split between the ministry of water resources (Rs 4,115.56 crore) and ministry of Agriculture (Rs 3,500).

For experts, such little allocation for agriculture is a worrying signal. With India’s agricultural growth at a five-year low, farmers are already feeling stuck performing a non-remunerative job. The Union Budget has left them even more disappointed. Farmers say while this budget professes fertilizer-free zero-budget farming, there are no markets for their produce. The budget grants a tiny Rs25 crore more for traditional farming, but the allocation for chemical fertilizers is upped by Rs9,990 crore. The budget does not provide much for rain-fed area development and climate change (Rs 250 cr), or for meeting government’s own goal of doubling the income of farmers by 2022.

ILO study says India to lose 34 million jobs by 2030 to heat stress

Reduced productivity because of climate-change related heat stress will cause India a loss of 34 million jobs by 2030, according to an International Labour Organisation (ILO) study. Globally, this will  result in a loss of 80 million jobs, researchers said. The ILO estimate is based on a conservative scenario of a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures by 2100. However, as per the existing policy, such a massive impact on labour force may not be officially considered a disastrous loss, since India doesn’t yet categorise the phenomenon of heat waves as a natural disaster

India: 316 Of 651 protected sites currently under final ESZ notification

After much delay, the government of India has so far finalised only 316 of 641 protected areas as Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZs). As of June 25, a further 199 sites were reported as being under draft notifications by minister of state for environment Babul Supriyo while answering a question in the Lok Sabha. The ESZ notification prohibits mining, stone quarrying and crushing units located within one kilometre of such areas. A 100 of these ESZs, are in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Environmentalists have long said that the areas notified as environmentally sensitive are quite less and won’t really help protect the ecology to the extent it is needed. 

China pledges to upgrade climate action “to highest possible ambition”, sings different tune on dirty investments abroad

In its first public declaration, the world’s largest emitter of warming greenhouse gases, China, has pledged to upgrade its Paris accord climate action to the “highest possible ambition” and promised to release a long-term decarbonisation plan in 2020. The announcement came on the sidelines of the G20, where the US reiterated plans to quit the Paris deal, arguing it “disadvantages American workers”.

Meanwhile, China has continued to finance coal abroad even if it means threatening world heritage sites. This week at a meeting of the UNESCO world heritage committee, the country blocked a motion to declare the Sundarbans as a heritage site “in danger”. The Asian giant was also successful in scrubbing the draft document of any mention of Chinese-financed coal plants Taltala and Kalpara, as well as the India-backed Rampal coal plant, that are being set up in the vicinity of the Sundarbans mangroves, a world heritage site since 1997.

In major win for Kenya archipelago, court blocks $2 billion Chinese-financed coal plant

In Kenya, the ‘UNESCO world heritage site’ tag was used to great effect by environmental activists who successfully petitioned Kenya’s green court to block the construction of a $2-billion Chinese-financed coal plant at the pristine Lamu archipelago- home to rich marine life. Activists cheered the court’s decision and told the media there was no place for coal in Kenya, and renewable energy is the only way to go. Greenpeace says emissions from the 981-megawatt plant would increase air pollution and cause acid rain, while the waste from the plant would threaten marine life and coral reefs.

Bonn impasse: Saudis mute 1.5°C from UN talks for good, Brazil insists to cash dated carbon credits

The latest UN climate talks ended in Bonn, with the US and Saudi Arabia managing to remove the key 1.5°C IPCC science report from the UN talks, questioning the findings of the global scientific community behind closed doors. Another unresolved issue was that of dated carbon credits. The Arab Group, India, and Brazil called for all existing credits (estimated to be between 2.3 to 5.4 billion) to be carried forward beyond 2020. Brazil, India, China and South Korea hold most of these credits.

Britain’s new net-zero emissions target becomes law

The UK passed the law to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, becoming the first major economy to set such a target. This means massive changes, including phasing out petrol and diesel cars by 2035, a 20% cut in consumption of red meat and more renewable electricity. Campaigners said the new target deadline should have been 2025, Reuters reported. The current government has also made climate protection the focus of overseas aid, with a planned expense of £193 million.

Climate change threatens basic Right to Life, UN expert warns of “Climate apartheid”

Global warming may not only undermine democracy and the rule of law, but also basic Right to Life, says a new study by UN special rapporteur Philip Alston. The study criticises the UN, for not making the climate crisis a central issue and warns of an impending ‘climate apertheid’ indicating that climate change could lead to systematic forms of discrimination and oppression. It points out that the most recent Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution on the climate crisis did not recognise “the need for the deep social and economic transformation …urgent if climate catastrophe is to be averted.” The report said developing countries will bear 75% of the costs, despite causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions. “The risk of community discontent …will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses,” the report warned.

1,300 cases, 20 years, 28 countries: Govts and firms sued over climate crisis and lost, says report

Governments and businesses worldwide will be increasingly dragged to court in climate crisis cases says a new London School of Economic study. Over 1,300 climate change court cases have been brought across 28 countries in the past 20 years, the study says. Maximum cases (1,023) have been in the US followed by Australia (94 cases), and the UK (53). The study cites a landmark Pakistan case that recognised the right to challenge climate inaction on the basis of human rights. The 2015 case resulted in setting up of a climate change commission in the country after a farmer alleged that his leaders had failed to ensure water, food and energy security, which are threatened by climate change. 

Chubb becomes first US insurer to turn back on coal investments

Acknowledging the reality of climate crisis, the US insurance company Chubb has decided to phase out its coal investments and insurance policies by 2022. The first US insurer to dump coal, Chubb won’t sell new insurance policies to companies that build or operate coal power plants, or those which generate more than 30% of their revenue from coal mining or supplying coal-fired electricity. It will begin cutting ties with major coal-using utilities, such as the German energy giant RWE, from 2022.

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